Josephine Feehily: Policing Authority concerned about issue of domestic violence

Josephine Feehily.

The chair of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily, has said that the authority is very concerned about the issue of domestic violence and the fact that there had been two domestic homicides in the first week of this year justified that concern.

She said that the authority wants to do more this year in relation to domestic violence.

Ms Feehily said: “The origins of the homicide review were concerns that domestic homicides were not getting the seriousness they deserved, there's a new piece of law now which raises that bar, introduces the notion of coercive control into domestic situations, so we wanted to be sure that the guards were thinking about that.

"Considering that the first week of the new year there are two domestic homicides already, this is something that we will definitely have to take a look at in the course of our work in 2019,” she told the Pat Kenny show on Newstalk.

Josephine Feehily.
Josephine Feehily.

If a crime is not properly classified there is a real concern that there won't be a thorough investigation, she added.

“For example with the homicides, if there is a sudden death it requires a different treatment to a murder, in terms of securing the scene, the kind of quality of investigation that happens, so one of the things that has taken a huge amount of the Authority's time in 2018 was month in, month out, persistently following up on the review of homicides.”

Ms Feehily said that 12 cases had to be reclassified.

“The guards are now reviewing 41 cases, they've got half way through them, we have concerns about the quality of investigation in two out of 20.”

This is a very serious issue, she said. “It informs public policy. If data says there is no problem here or if there is a problem here, if that's not properly grounded in evidence then you get the wrong policy.”

Ms Feehily said that the Authority had also commissioned a review of the handling of public order incidents. This was particularly timely, she added, in view of recent events involving the ‘gilets jaunes’.

“This review arose out of events like Jobstown and North Frederick Street.”

She said that while there are fully trained public order units, the issue of concern was what would happen and how would the gardaí cope with an unannounced incident in an area without such a unit.

Ms Feehily was speaking ahead of the publication of the Policing Authority’s annual review.

“Three years ago this week we started with three staff.”

While she has concerns about the “realignment of functions” for the Authority, GSOC and the Garda Inspectorate, it will not happen this year, she said. In most jurisdictions such functions are merged, she acknowledged.

She said she supported plans by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris for ‘civilianisation’ of the force and agreed with his description of non-front-line personnel as ‘garda staff’. It is important to get fully trained gardaí “out from behind desks”.

But it is not just clerical and admin staff, she said, it is also forensic and cybercrime experts and crime scene investigators. They should and could be recruited from academia and business rather than having to train gardaí, said Ms Feehily.

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